Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Home-Cooked Goodness

It's always busy right before the holidays. But for some reason, this is also the time I get really lazy, so I've been behind.

Today I'm sharing some home-cooked goodness.

Spring Roll Spread
This first spread was graciously served when I visited a good friend in Rowlett. I apologize for the foto's focal plane being to shallow. It's a build-your-own-spring-roll meal, similar to this one. The sliced beef was marinated in lemongrass, salt and secret spices. The shrimp wasn't marinated. For those unfamiliar with this set up, here's how things work:

1. Cook the meat in a lot of butter in the hot pot
2. Once cooked, combine meat with rice vermicelli, lettuce and cilantro and wrap in rice paper wrapper
3. Depending on your liking, dip it in the accompanying fish sauce (some folks may find the fish sauce too pungent, but, like Goldilocks in Baby Bear's bed, I found it was just right)
4. Guzzle some beer
5. Laugh with good friends
6. Repeat steps 1 through 5

As for how it tasted, IMHO, the combination of minced lemongrass and salt is as delicious as A and W. In the wild, lemongrass looks like a huge weed. In the grocery store, it looks like hard, dried green onions. But at the dinner table, it looks like there won't be any leftovers. It tastes like the illegitimate offspring of a lemon and lawn clippings. Sounds weird, I know. I really don't do it justice but that's what it tastes like. And once you had it, you won't forget it.

The rice vermicelli emulsified the oily, fatty meats with the crisp, fresh veggies so that you can enjoy all the flavors without getting sick of too much meat of veggies. The noodles also served as a means to capture plenty of fish sauce. With beef and shrimp in the same bite, it's the Asian version of surf and turf.

Grilled Nem
Our next home-cooked meal came from my mother-in-law. This woman loves to cook. See how the foto has enough food for 6 people? Yeah, all that was served for only 3. In one of my earlier posts, I covered Laotian nem. Well, here's one of the Vietnamese versions. Though I haven't asked her for her secrets yet, I have a hunch that it is a mixture of pork, beef and lemongrass. I know she then shapes it, steams it, and then grills the cooked meat mixture. Once cooked, it's split lengthwise and covered in cooked green onions. The green onions are cooked in plenty of hot oil just until fragrant. The Vietnamese term for the cooked green onion literally translate to "fat onions." The plate of greens consists of lettuce, a type of mint, and more green onions. In a bowl, combine the noodles, meat, and veggies. Add chili paste and fish sauce as desired and garnish with peanuts.

As I mentioned above, lemongrass and salt is a great combination, especially for beef and pork. And since the nem has both beef and pork, it's a no-brainer. The oil infused with green onion coats the meat and adds aroma and grease to the meat. Throw in the salty fish sauce and spicy chili paste and you have a symphony of flavors in your mouth. I ended up eating much more than I needed, as usual.

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